Boys’ State offers hands-on lessons in government

By Paula Cronic: Freedom Newspapers

PORTALES — Instead of learning about local and federal government by reading textbooks and sitting through lectures, students who attend Boys’ State this week at Eastern New Mexico University will have the chance to experience democracy first-hand by creating a mock city, county and state.

“It gives (the students) the opportunity to learn about government by actually doing and participating, as well as teaches them leadership and citizenship,” said James Baca, associate director.

Manzano High’s Art Chacon was selected by his teacher and decided to attend even though he didn’t know much about it.

“I found it broadens your horizons and opens a whole new world of opportunities to be able to see how the government operates,” Chacon said.

Not only will the boys form mock cities, counties and a state, they will learn about city operation and have elections for mayor, city council and treasurer. From there, they are responsible for making their own laws, and begin to learn about the electoral process.

The boys will also be given a set of scenarios in which their mock governments have gone wrong and have to create solutions for them.

Eventually they will have elections for governor and lieutenant governor that will represent this session of Boys’ State.

Director Ralph Kemp said the boys will have state, county and democratic pride by the end of the conference.

“They (will) know more about the government than most adults,” he said.

Two students will be selected to represent the state in Washington, D.C., at Boys’ Nation, and will have the chance to meet the president and tour the city.

“Boys’ Nation would be great. There are a lot of great leaders here but I’m trying to do my best to represent my parents, Texico and New Mexico,” said Warren Jorde, a Texico High School student.

Boys going into their senior year of high school are selected to attend the conference for having shown leadership skills to someone in their school. That person is usually a teacher or counselor. They are sponsored by the American Legion of New Mexico post located in their city.

“ENMU treats us very well. We are very happy here. They open their campus doors to us and make our program a very successful program,” Baca said.